SEVEN worshippers were killed and at least 13 wounded in a rescue operation to end a hostage drama at a church in the Iraqi capital today.

“We have released the hostages but, unfortunately, we regret the deaths of seven of them, while another 20 were wounded,” an interior ministry official said.

A defence ministry official also said seven hostages were killed but gave a wounded toll of 13 out of about 40 worshippers who were held by gunmen until Iraqi and US forces mounted a joint rescue operation.

“We came here to help the police and army free the hostages, and we released them with the help of the Americans,” he said.

An Iraqi soldier said all the gunmen had been killed.

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